SAN ANTONIO -

A groundbreaking heart procedure now being performed at University Hospital is helping reduce the risk of stroke in certain patients.

The "Lariat procedure" is a minimally invasive process that is now done in place of a major surgery.

Doctors told Michael Vasquez he was a good candidate for the procedure.

Vasquez, 64, had a major stroke in 2005 that paralyzed his right side and recently found out he was at high risk for another stroke.    

"It was devastating. I couldn't use the right side of my body, couldn't brush my teeth and had to learn to walk again," he said.

A recent exam showed Vasquez had atrial fibrillation, a condition that disrupts that heart's upper and lower chambers from working together, which can lead to an increased likelihood that blood will pool and clots will form.  

Doctors recommended the Lariat procedure -- a minimally invasive technique that blocks off the left atrial appendage.

"Once that left atrial appendage is completely ligated, no clot can form in that area and that's the reason why it can benefit you and prevent clots from going from the heart up to the brain and cause a stoke," said Dr. Manoj Panday, an electrophysiologist.

The surgery is performed by a team of interventional cardiologists though a partnership with University Health System, UT Medicine San Antonio and University Hospital.

It involves inserting a tubular device through a small incision in the groin up to the heart. The Lariat device is then inserted through a small incision in the chest and lassos a suture over the appendage.

Once the suture is in place, both devices are removed.

Prior to the Lariat, this procedure was done with open heart surgery.

"It's a complex procedure that's been made simple by a device like this," said Panday.

Vasquez won't have scars, will only be in the hospital for a day or two and his chances of another stroke will be cut down significantly.

"That would be really good, you know. That's what I'm hoping," said Vasquez

The Lariat procedure is recommended for patients with atrial fibrillation who can't take blood thinners, in order to reduce the risk of stroke.

University Hospital is the first an only hospital in San Antonio to offer the new procedure.